Like with seemingly every rock band from Japan, SiM are a pretty huge deal in their home country; everywhere else, you’ll probably only know them for doing the theme song for the last season of Attack On Titan. That song is The Rumbling, a symphonic metal skyscraper that’s certainly ear-catching as an anime theme, but really isn’t a great indication of what SiM are about, even if it would mostly be preferable. On PLAYDEAD, SiM find themselves scrolling through not only metalcore, but also alt-rock, ska-punk, reggae, alt-metal and pop-rock, with dubious consideration for how very unflattering this can feasibly be.
What transpires is a very wonky patchwork of ideas, even by the very liberal standards of genre boundaries within J-rock. The traditional genre-mashing of that is combined with the the ska-punk / alt-metal / anything-and-everything agnosticism of Zebrahead or Skindred, in which the copious sonic lumps aren’t close to adequately covered or accommodated for. The key difference is how there just isn’t a fun factor with SiM; their technique is rigid and blocky, and seldom in service to anything greater than its own desire for randomness. Lockstep electro-metal chugs are mixed with dizzy ska swings on DO THE DANCE; elsewhere, the value in straightforward, Rise Against-style punk on TOO LATE and BBT is shattered by out-the-blue lunges into metalcore and reggae respectively.
To top it off, the production on the whole is too flat and sterile to match SiM’s presumed level of dynamism. Just look at Sad Song, where the spry, guitar-framed verses sound okay, but a hook striving for bombast has anything of the sort surgically removed, and the disconnect is palpable. Extrapolate that out to some of PLAYDEAD’s wilder swerves, and it kind of speaks for itself. And throughout, there’s a real sense that SiM do feel like they’re combatting those blocks well, and that the rubbery, retina-searing J-rock norm is within their grip. Except it’s not. Obviously, vocalist MAH putting on a forced reggae patois for RED and KISS OF DEATH is…questionable, as are the attempts to jumpstart a lyrical set without a whole lot of flavour, in references to Michael Jordan and John Lennon on DO THE DANCE, or the oh-so-J-rock hook “You’re such a fool / Acting cool like the first day of school” on Die Alone.
Of course, it should be stressed that it’s not entirely bad. Not So Weak is especially strong with a couple of groovier percussion and bass moments, and playing straighter to punk or even ska-punk on HIDE and SEEK and SWEET DREAMS yields far greater stability. Honestly, if SiM would just pick something and stick to it, they’d likely be far better; even that doesn’t negate the possibility of a bigger stride into the unknown once in a while. But PLAYDEAD is simultaneously overstuffed and boring in its execution of that, a dilemma with little flexibility to work with. You might remember it for the sort of album it is—a brash, unfocused but utterly unconforming listen—but not any specifics of that, or even what’s done well among it.
For fans of: Skindred, Zebrahead, MAN WITH A MISSION
‘PLAYDEAD’ by SiM is released on 27th September on UNFD.
The Path To Righteousness
You might remember these guys as Grove Street Families, the hardcore band from the 2010s that were generally good, but whose defining trait was ultimately being named after a gang from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Well, clearly the families have parted ways, leaving Grove Street to re-emerge as…a generally good hardcore band once more. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an undersell. They’ve actually never sounded better than on The Path To Righteousness, in which their time gestating their rebirth has clearly been the catalyst for Grove Street resettling. But even so, this isn’t great just yet, either.
At least the pieces are there, with the array of prefab hardcore components fitting together as smoothly as ever, and working equally as well. In their dalliances with crossover thrash, Grove Street do have something to set them apart from many of their contemporaries, but as a whole, this remains as cement-cracking, street-level hardcore of the most incessantly destructive variety. It’s always worked (it likely always will), which at least sets up a floor for The Path To Righteousness that’s of a solid height. At its best, the piledriving grooves on Caught Slippin’ and great bass work on Ulterior Motives and T.Y.D.O prove yet again why they’re set staples in this branch of hardcore, while vocalist Sully comes lugging just as much weight in the gnarliness of his screams and flows. Might as well toss in the hip-hop swagger and bluster that tends to be an equally good fit (the interpolation of Grandmaster Flash’s The Message on Lessons Of The Past makes for a killer snippet), because Grove Street can work that just as well, too.
So yeah, pretty good stuff on the whole, even if it’s at the expense of a bit of variety, around the scene at certain points and Grove Street themselves at others. It’s definitely a nice change of pace to bring in some slicing thrash speed to proceedings, on the title track or Born II Lose to shift some gears in necessary ways, but it’s not the magic galvaniser to take The Path To Righteousness significantly higher. At most junctures, it’s typically one style or the other, and although the album isn’t too long, you start to run out of material that lights the same kind of fire. It’s quite frontloaded with its best attributes and features; the big cat roar on opener proper Hunting Season is one of the most ingenious bits of mirroring ferocity that hardcore has put to wax in a long time, and it’s really never lived up to again.
It is honestlya bit of strange case, though it’s more about Grove Street actually throwing in new sonic ideas and moments where others wouldn’t, and still feeling rather limited with them. Granted, it’s an issue that plenty won’t share, particularly when the truckloads of devastation and ground-level lyrical volatility don’t seem close to losing their appeal in a hurry. Plus, the intent is just so rock-solid that it’s difficult to disagree with, or pick holes too big in when that feels as though it goes against the whole point. At the end of the day…it’s hardcore, isn’t it? You get out what you want, and there’ll be tonnes for whom Grove Street deliver plenty.
For fans of: Sick Of It All, Going Off, Broken Teeth
‘The Path To Righteousness’ by Grove Street is released on 29th September on UNFD.
More than many, King Nun feel as though they’re prepping for something, with a multitude of possibilities. They carry almost equal vibes of prospective festival dominators, indie-punk wunderkinds and crossover dynamos, with very rarely mutual exclusivity between all three. That’s a telltale sign of a band ready to rocket ahead at any moment; the buzz behind King Nun, although fairly scant, has certainly held firm that notion too thus far. Now, yes, a lot of that can feel like interchangeable copy applicable to the majority of new bands, but with King Nun, there’s genuinely something here that matches up. Just on its own, new album Lamb is as convincing a bit of evidence for it as they come.
For starters, the cavalcade of melodies from King Nun would be enough of a clue on its own. Their breadth is not incomparable to your typical indie upstart—a good helping of pop nous with punk and post-punk to taste—but finds it easier to bypass some clunkier affectations. Even on Escapism, which could easily fit among a crop of clattering, noisy but ultimately interchangeable garage-rock, being both an instrumental and happy to blow itself out further into borderline noise-rock sets King Nun apart. Furthermore, there’s a simple vigour to songs like Selfish or Sinking Feeling that can get more heated, or even more on OCD or I Must Be Struck By Lightning in which Theo Polyzoides pants through his lyrics with emboldened, expressive fervour.
King Nun have a directness here that really does help Lamb out, by means of different branching paths that still end up coalescing in such an efficient manner. The centralised themes of mental health and trudging through anguish towards resilience prove immensely flexible—OCD fields its touches of Placebo via post-punk snark and sharply-whittled guitar stings; meanwhile, the title track jangles in a combination of whimsy and resignation of consuming anxieties and neuroses, tied together by Polyzoides’ sighing, open-ended vocals. The beauty of Lamb really is in its variegated looks and feels, conventionally melodic with signs of slipping off-piste and warping into something more deranged in earshot. No matter where it ends up though, it always sticks the landing.
Honestly, there’s a bit of Badflower’s own prostrations on a knife-edge to what King Nun are doing, though elevated by some distinct British tact that makes all the difference. Lamb is far more consistent at bringing both its subject matter and aesthetic to a boil, resulting in a pretty great, taut alt-rock package all the way down. Again, this is an easy candidate for some major groundswell in the future, considering that King Nun seem to push every button of worthwhile relevance present in today’s indie-rock and indie-punk. And all while coming from a place of clear passion and intelligence, at that. What more could you ask for?
For fans of: Placebo, Kid Kapichi, VANT
‘Lamb’ by King Nun is released on 29th September on Marshall Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall